Anarchism and Marxism

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Hence follows the rejection by anarchists of the Marxist emphasis on political parties as necessary elements in the revolutionary process. Anarchists exalt spontaneous mass action. They are critical of what they regard as an elitist and authoritarian organisation. They are hostile to political parties, whether they are of the Leninist vanguard type or social democratic mass parties.

Here lies the basic difference between anarchism and Marxism. Though Marx and Engels did not give special emphasis upon party as a potential weapon for realizing revolution, in this respect Lenin did not fail. No vanguard organization shall be there to guide and motivate them.

There is another difference between anarchism and Marxism. The former refused to accept any form of participation in state institution including electoral process. But these arguments of the anarchists have been strongly opposed by the Marxists. They point out that mass participation in political activities and party organization are essential parts of revolutionary process. Both Marxists and anarchists had different views about capital and state. This difference was so prominent that there was polar difference between the two.

Engels pointed out this difference in his letter to Cuno which was written on 24 January Engels has further observed that Bakunin has failed to realize that the state is nothing more than the organization of the ruling classes and they utilized it for harvesting their own privileges and benefits. Bakunin maintains that the state has created capital and capital has all the evils. If state is destroyed capitalism will go to blazes of itself. On the contrary, Engels says that if capitalism is done away with and the concentration of wealth in the hands of few is stopped the state will collapse.

So we see that there is a basic difference between anarchism and Marxism as to the role of state and capitalism. There is another difference. The abolition of capital will not lead to the abolition of state as had been imagined by the anarchists. Engels has maintained that without a previous social revolution the abolition of state is nonsense.

Only a social revolution can help the abolition of capital and the abolition of state will follow. This difference in approach is due to the fact that Marxism believes that the state is the product of capitalism. On the other hand, anarchism says that the state has created capital. We think that the Marxian analysis is more scientific because before the creation of capital practically there was no existence of modern state apparatus. Moreover, Marx and Engels have come to this conclusion from an in-depth analysis of social development. Their conclusion is not a priori.

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Marxism and Anarchism

The anarchists vehemently opposed the state because the state means authority and it again means loss of freedom of individuals. So the individuals can have full freedom in the absence of state. But in his letter to Cuno Engels has raised a very pertinent and practical question. If there is no authority how a factory or railway or any organisation will be managed?


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There shall be one authority to take a decision or utter a final word in regard to management. But a pro-capitalist government continued to exist, the Provisional Government. Between February and October the most consistent revolutionary party, the Bolsheviks led by Lenin and Trotsky, grew by tens of thousands.


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  • This party was able to lead the soviets to take power and overthrow the Provisional Government. History has shown many examples of the self-organization of the workers, of workers and peasants councils being established. But many political trends exist within them.

    Murray Bookchin Marxism and Anarchism

    The most consistent revolutionaries need to organize to give leadership, to fight for a perspective of taking power. When the fascists attempted to seize power with the army, the workers set up their own workers councils. The CNT anarchists, the biggest anarchist movement in the world, joined the government! They showed they were completely confused about the question of power.

    No consistent revolutionary force existed to give alternative leadership. When Marxists talk about leadership they are not talking about a group of wise individuals leading the movement, but something more straightforward and obvious.

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    Whenever we give out a leaflet, propose a resolution in a trade union, organize a demonstration or produce a newspaper, we are engaged in giving leadership. However, we say the revolutionaries, the consistent socialists, need to organize together to work out collectively and democratically how to fight against the bosses, the state and the right wing in the labor movement. This may seem obvious in a trade union or a student group, but Marxists say that the socialists have to do it at a national level, and if possible, internationally. We need a nationally coordinated organization, a party.

    It is not true that political parties are always undemocratic and authoritarian. Often anarchist movements are much more undemocratic than socialist parties, because they lack the democratic procedures to make majority decisions. Anarchists are opposed to standing in elections, or supporting any political party.

    Marxism and anarchism

    Since parliamentary capitalism is undemocratic, they refuse to participate. This is called cutting off your nose to spite your face. Fighting elections, or even getting people elected, is an important way to get our ideas known and expose the capitalists.

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